Must-Reads from Edwina Sandys

Edwina Sandys is an artist and sculptor, currently exhibiting at Grounds For Sculpture, NJ. and at Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, West Palm Beach FL

My_Lost_Cuba_selectMy Lost Cuba

A novel by Celso Falla-Gonzalez

The story all takes place in Cuba in the year 1958, and captures life as it was in the tumultuous year that led up to the coming of Castro and the end of an enchanted era. The political background gives an added sense of urgency to the plot. The story is about transition: a father and son – the son taking over the farm in the Camaguey region from his widowed father… and about the burgeoning of new young love.

Celso seems to be a painter as much as a writer: the gnarled farmhand, the prison cell, the scene at the Havana night club, are drawn as deftly as if by Toulouse Lautrec… inanimate objects as evocatively as if by Van Gogh.

All senses are engaged: you can taste it, you can see it, you can hear, touch, and smell it. The little things that make up everyday life give us an intimate picture; although this is a novel and not an autobiography, there can be no doubt that the very human experiences of the hero Mike are akin to those of the author.

The description of aging farm equipment is so real that I can almost put my fingernail under the encrusted paint and flick off a cracked flake. And then there is the sensual description of the black stallion and related thoughts:

            “Mike wandered to the black stallion’s box. He felt better there, alone as he rubbed the horse’s silky coat, combed his finger through the black lustrous            mane, looked into his eyes, and talked to him…. Mike held Rita’s hand as they walked through the barn. He enjoyed the soft feel of her skin as they went over             rough cobblestones….”

We swim with Mike at Varadero Beach, the playground of the rich; we accompany him to the Dupont home (now a small hotel which I stayed in twelve years ago). We feel his outrage and pain as the army officer beats him across the back with the flat of a machete; We rail with impatience at his dealings with his aging father, Don Miguel, who turns out to be not so aging after he finds rebirth with a new very young amour.

I asked Celso what he thought would happen when the Castros are no longer running Cuba. “There already are changes. People can buy property and cars. I hope we can all soon return to a free Cuba”.


DECORATING in the GRAND MANOR Book - cover - In the Grand Manor

A Design Memoir by Carleton Varney

Fireworks exploding in ecstasy across the sky begin their journey with perfect planning. Excellence is achieved with meticulous attention to detail. So it is with Carleton Varney’s work.

I open this sumptuous book at random. My eye lights upon a dining table set with a riot of green and turquoise, shimmering gold rimmed, crystal glasses, mirroring a red-crested, blown-glass cockatoo. I leaf back a page and stand at the top of a stairway – walls and ceilings are covered with fluffy white clouds, floating Magritte-like on a pure blue sky, a Ming horse charges forth on a window ledge, disembodied Persian rugs hang close to the ceiling, all giving an Alice-in-Wonderland feeling of not knowing if you are up or down.

The mixing and the not-matching, the out-of-scale surprises, jolt me out of myself. The rooms are carefree and comfortable. People, dogs, and even children are welcome. Not everyone has the nerve to embrace color the way Carleton does. His style is not for the faint-hearted, not for the lover of beige and low-key, muted tones. His style is for those with the courage to grasp life with open arms. As with all the gifts on this earth, God wouldn’t have given us color if he hadn’t wanted us to enjoy it.

I have known Carleton for many years and have stayed in some of these homes and hotels, including Makinaw, Greenbriar and Dromoland Castle, Ireland. No space is considered unimportant. The corridors and stairways are given as much attention and glamor as the grand dining halls and master bedrooms. I am thrilled to see in the book the dramatic picture of the landing outside the bedroom, in which I slept at Dromoland Castle.  We also get a peek into the world of some of Carleton’s famous clients. The Bush family home in Kennebunkport shows a twin bedroom done in fresh blue and white – very New England. Nancy Reagan likes red so Carleton gives her White House bedroom red bedcovers, red headboard, red canopy, red walls and red roses.

There are no rules to be adhered to but there is always the framework, the underlying classical bone structure, inherited and re-imagined from Dorothy Draper. In 1962, as a very young man, Carleton joined the Dorothy Draper decorating company, where he has been owner and president for over fifty years. The book brims over with his wonderful good humor and attitude to life.

This is a coffee table book, which will not lie unopened. In Carleton Varney’s world, a picture says a million words.

Must-Reads from Edwina Sandys